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FAQ For Buyers

Why should I use an agent to buy a home?

A local real estate agent is an expert who can help you immensely when purchasing a home. They can help you understand your needs, guide your search for a dream home, and make effective offers to get you the best outcome.

How do I choose an agent to help me buy a home?

When you work with an agent you want someone that has great skills and expertise, but also that you feel comfortable working with. A great buying agent will know your local property market inside and out and will be attuned to your specific needs and budget. They will also be an excellent negotiator and guide you through the entire process of home-buying. However, a great agent for you will also be someone you feel comfortable being around and enjoy working with, so it’s important to screen agents both for their expertise and for how well you “click” with one another

How much does a buying agent typically get paid?

A top buying agent typically earns somewhere between 2%-3% of the transaction’s final sale price. Agent commission rates can vary regionally and are calculated based on the property’s closing price. Note that the best real estate agents should be able to clearly explain the value they bring to the table.

Can I work with more than one agent?

Yes, up to a point. As a buyer, you are welcome to communicate with multiple agents at once and see different properties with multiple agents. However once you see a specific house with an agent (or submit an offer on a specific property), you may then be obligated to continue working with that agent on that specific property. Many real estate agents may attempt to establish “agency” with you, meaning they’re the only agent you’re currently working with.

Can I just work with the agent who has the home listed?

Yes, however while you can legally have the listing agent represent you as the buyer (in the U.S.) some buyers are wary of this practice, as the agent you work with should always have your best interests in mind. Working with the listing agent to buy the property can create a conflict of interest (e.g. during price negotiation) so it may not be in your best interests to do so.

What should I have ready before meeting with a buyer's agent?

It depends. You can expect the agent you’re meeting with to advise you on specifics given your situation. Some common items that may be helpful are a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter from your bank, a list of the most important things you’re looking for in a property, and a general sense of the neighborhoods and locations you’re interested in. This will give the agent you’re speaking with some initial context to start advising you.

Should I talk to a lender first or an agent first?

It can be advantageous to connect with a REALTOR® or agent prior to speaking with a lender, as the best real estate agents can guide you through the entire real estate transaction process while a lender only focuses on your financial needs.

What is the MLS? Why is it important when buying a home?

MLS is short for "Multiple Listing Service". This service provides real estate agents with details about a property and any transactions that may occur. The MLS is typically only available to real estate industry professionals.

At what point in the process should I talk to the agent? Should I find a home I’m interested in first?

There’s no wrong time to get connected with the best local real estate agents or to begin comparing REALTORS®. Once you have identified a good real estate agent you’re happy working with, they can support you with all other aspects of your buying journey including finding a home, understanding loan options, and submitting an offer.

How long does the home buying process usually take?

Every home purchase is different and depends on what’s being included in the “process”. Once an offer is accepted by a home seller until the closing date takes approximately 30-45 days (on average), although this can be a lot less depending on the context. If you include getting pre-approved, searching for and touring homes, and the entire escrow process, a top REALTOR® can guide you through this process in 3-6 months typically.

Who pays the commission when buying a home?

The most common practice is for the seller to pay out both the selling and buying agent commissions (though exceptions always exist). Working with a top buyer’s real estate agent means they’ll always put your best interest first.

What is a short sale? What is a foreclosure? What is the difference?

A short sale is when a home is being sold for less than what is still owed on the mortgage by the current owner. A foreclosure happens when a borrower defaults (stops making payments) on their loan and the bank/lender takes over the property and attempts to recoup their loss through a sale.

What does contingent mean?

A property or transaction is contingent when an offer to purchase has been accepted and is moving forward, however there is an additional condition that is waiting to be satisfied before the transaction can proceed further (thus the transaction is contingent upon that condition being met).

What are closing costs?

Closing costs are additional costs that exist for a home purchase that develop beyond the costs of the home’s listing price. These can include escrow fees, lender fees, taxes, and more. While amounts vary across states and transactions, average total closing costs are estimated at between 2% - 6% of the property’s purchase price. These costs must be paid at closing in order for the transaction to close.

Why do certain types of loans have extra stipulations for the property (ex: VA, FHA)?

Every loan has repayment conditions or stipulations attached to it, such as the amount of interest incurred and the loan’s term. Some loans through government agencies or other large institutions may have additional qualifying criteria or conditions related to repayment, for example, a Veterans Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan.

What if I change my mind about the house I wanted to buy?

Depending on where you are in the home buying process, your options will be very different. If still in the early stages of comparing neighborhoods and homes, there are no consequences to changing what you’re looking for. If you are further along in the process and have already submitted an offer on a home that has been accepted, then you may have to forfeit the earnest money deposit you initially put forward on the home, which is typically at least 1% and often up to 3% of the listing price.

What are clouds on a title?

A clouded title means there are additional claims toward a title (or claims of additional ownership). This means that there is at least one (and possibly more) parties involved that are claiming some type of ownership or stake in the property. This clouded title can often delay closing, with the possibility of a protracted title dispute occurring.

What does a home inspector do? What things do they look for?

A home inspector completes an in-person inspection of a property to assess its current condition. This can be done for multiple reasons, including to help the buyer better understand the home they are buying or to satisfy an inspection contingency. While there are many specifics that are covered by a professional home inspector, some of the major items include a home’s roof, foundation, electrical system, fireplace, and more.